St Petersburg, Concert Hall

Stravinsky. Symphony of Psalms, L’Histoire du soldat

The Mariinsky Chorus and Orchestra
Conductor: Cemi'i Can Deliorman

Ensemble of artists of the Orchestra:
Alexandra Li (violin)
Gleb Dyagilev (double bass)
Andrei Bezruchko (clarinet)
Yuri Radzevich (bassoon)
Semyon Salomatnikov (trumpet)
Mikhail Vinnitsky (trombone)
Alexander Veselov (percussion)

The Narrator: Alexander Podmeshalsky

Igor Stravinsky
Symphony of Psalms
L’Histoire du soldat

Chorus Master: Nikita Gribanov

Without Serge Koussevitzky the 20th century would not have enjoyed a good half of the masterpieces it saw created. a double bass player, conductor and publisher, he knew exactly what to commission from which genius and when. It thus came to pass that Igor Stravinsky composed his Symphony of Psalms in 1930 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The composer started work on it at Christmas and very quickly he came to the conclusion that the basis of his new work should come from the Psalter. The verse was selected so that each subsequent section is a continuation of the preceding one in terms the idea being conveyed – the three movements of the symphony are performed without a break. The symphony uses the Latin text of the psalms, although the composer initially worked with the Russian language version and this is reflected in the musical intonations of the work. In the music one can hear symphonies and the regularity of bell-ringing. The Symphony of Psalms exerted a major influence on the development of religious music in the 20th century. It had an even stronger influence on symphonies composed between the 1930s and the 1950s. As in Stravinsky’s earlier work, these almost always feature a finale that concludes with a slow coda. When writing the Symphony of Psalms the composer himself was quite possibly inspired by the coda from Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony. Anna Bulycheva

L’Histoire du soldat (1918) is an original genre-style mix created by Stravinsky in collaboration with the librettist Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz. The plot is based on Russian folk tales (which also featured several motifs of the legend of Faust), but the creators strove to give it true world significance and present it as a parable. This parable, however, was not entirely devoid of topical and autobiographical character; the composer admitted that, like the hero of his work, he was “left with nothing, in a foreign land, at the very height of the war.”
The circumstances of the war years affected not just the themes of L’Histoire but its performers as well. The piece, which was conceived as a production for a small travelling company, was to be chamber in terms of its nature; just four characters and a unique orchestra of “a handful of instruments” including the main orchestral sections plus percussion. Seeing the orchestra as an ensemble of soloists, Stravinsky personified the timbres: the violin – the object of victory in the battle – embodies the soldier’s soul while the drum embodies the Devil. The environment that is alien to the Russian soldier is represented by “foreign” dances (the tango, waltz and ragtime) and Spanish and German genres (marcha pasodoble and chorale). L’Histoire includes numerous sound associations with the concerts of renowned New Orleans jazz bands, recordings of which Stravinsky so greatly admired. Nadezhda Koulygina

Age category 6+

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